Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No More Old Men

In darkness and pain he trembled. Unable to walk, to do more than stumble, his right foreleg hung useless and unbearing. In the headlight beams there was little to tell of his injuries, lost to shadow and his own darkness. The pain, still, was obvious. Horses get drawn with pain, an expressive clinging of skin to muscle and muscle to the bone. Nothing is lost in their large eyes, unless they want it to be. Approaching him, slowly, hand out, his eyes told stories I did not want to hear. He reached out with his head, and his lips nibbled at my fingers. He was soft, and sweet. And I had no help, no real comfort for him. It was late, and I was on the road.
That was then. Now in the cool morning, the extent of the shattered shoulder is obvious. The flies have begun to torment him, as he stands too weak to flick his tail. Too drawn and pained to twitch his skin. I approach again with my hand out, and he moves only a little. Brushing his face and neck I talk to him softly, and below his vision I pass the gun from my left hand to my right. I hold it against the back of my thigh, and pull the hammer to the rear where it clicks. He moves away from the metallic, mechanical, noise and I move with him. Stilling him, I touch and stroke with my left hand, as I whisper. The words are for me, their softness for him. I brush the hair of his mane from the top of his head, scratching softly at the fly bites. I can see the white blaze of his forehead clearly now and my fingers linger on it for a moment. He breathes steadily and lowers his head just slightly. There is no time but now, and any greater amount of now will only draw out his agony.
There is a stillness after gunfire as the world comes to life again. The moment after the shot nothing has moved save the hand in recoil. It too is frozen, for an instant in waiting, before sound and motion, like water drawn away from a shore, come rushing back. In that rush of birds cries and fluttering wings, he falls. He goes down straight, legs buckling to lay him into his own dragging tracks, a great weight upon the earth. The body, so many long milliseconds dead, tenses and convulses briefly and stops, then with the stillness comes blood. Everything relaxes and pours out, upon the dust etched with agony.

The strict facts are simple enough, but their meaning depends on things impossible to relate. Experience is the ancient flood, tearing new canyons and river bottoms, and like younger waters we are destined to run the course it shapes. This is no different. This story, as all killing stories do, runs deeper than the killing.
The horse had been ridden at a gallop through a rat den, his leg dropping into the pit, loading his shoulder until it came apart. His rider, a weekender in the backcountry, had left him near the water and gone back to town too much a coward to make it right. Three days the horse had stood, alone and without food, before I drove past and saw him.
The rider is the next generation of a family I've known all my life. The old men of the family, those who were old when I was born, helped raise me. In the silent teaching of action they gave me the gift of an older way. I came up among them tougher and better honed than their own sons and actual grandsons. Those younger man all products of towns and rejection of the old ways.
It is far too late for old men. The world moves on, and they begin to fail. There are only a few left, of all the good ones I've known. Those who are still alive so rarely come to the ranch country, leaving it for their descendants, who take it only for a playground. Those descendants who don't have what it takes. Whose macho falls away to cowardice when it really matters. Who commit evils and sins that their fathers would have found unthinkable. Their fathers who fought and killed, drank and whored, but never once shied away from a thing for the hardness of it.
If there is ever a final judgment, I'll stand with the old men I've known. We'll pass a bottle, and watch as it all goes down.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sleeping, Snorting, Fucking.

This is a bit delayed, as I was waiting for the last of them to run, but I've recently had three pieces published in the lovely journal Sleep.Snort.Fuck.
You may find all three of them here: Morgan Atwood, at Sleep, Snort, Fuck

Or, in order of publication:


Measure of Ecstasy


Hopefully needless to say, given the name of the journal, some content may be considered Not Safe For Work (/Wife/Children).

I feel spoiled to, yet again, have somewhere I really like publish my work.

(These publications also mark an interesting point for me as a poet. I once said all my poetry was non-fiction and this is no longer true. These mark the first success I've had, both in personal feelings about them and publication, with fictional poetry. I say that not to disown the themes or any unpleasantness, but more because I find the revelation of my own process a wonderful ongoing mystery.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Solutions for Austerity and Hostility

I've been far too busy with other things recently, and have been neglecting my blog here. For those friends and readers who are interested in issues of and skills for wilderness survival, abandoned mine exploration, armed citizen/concealed carry, armed professions, individual medical skills and tactical medicine, and a related mish-mash there of, I'll invite you to where I have been busy: http://BFELabs.com is my “professional” home as something other than a writer/artist. Some of you may find it interesting. Some of you may find it appalling.
I'll admit some trepidation at linking these two halves of my life. While the one is rather accepting of the other, it doesn't always go both ways. The artsy, literary, side of the house is often not at all accepting of the gun carrying, wilderness capable, military/police friendly, war-on-terror supporting, knife fighting, mine exploring, MMA-training, type. Whereas the long fangs are often as artsy and literary as anyone else. This is a constant source of disappointment in my life, as folks from the supposedly kinder/gentler art and writing world are often so put-off by the other as to make friendship difficult. The professional costs may be as high as well. That is, however, just the way it is. I am who and what I am, and I'll never compromise that because I offend the delicate political sensibilities of my fellow artists and writers. It's not that I am politically incorrect – You are just ideologically sheltered.